TAKING in the Edinburgh derby in an Aberdeen hostelry on Tuesday night proved an unsettling experience. Fairy lights were draped over the doorway. The bar was adorned with tinsel. Is it really asking too much to get Halloween and bonfire night out the way first before starting the Christmas festivities?

Yet, Santa Claus arrived a long time ago for Celtic and their supporters this year, way back in March in fact, when Rangers appointed a previously unheard of Portuguese manager called Pedro Caixinha who was working at a mid-table club in Qatar as successor to Mark Warburton.

Widespread fears the former Uniao Leiria, Nacional, Santos Laguna and Al-Gharafa manager – who was offered to the Glasgow club by his agent, the former Rangers midfielder Pedro Mendes, completely out of the blue – would struggle were quickly confirmed.

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A record 5-1 defeat to Celtic at Ibrox was suffered in April. As was a first home loss to Aberdeen in 26 years in May. His side failed to win three games in a row in the 11 matches which he presided over.

But the presents for their rivals across the city just kept on coming. Instead of realising their catastrophic error of judgement and parting company with Caixinha in the summer they compounded the mistake further by handing him substantial funds.

They accepted the line peddled by the 46-year-old – that the squad he had taken over was of insufficient quality and he could only be judged when he had brought in his own guys - and rashly threw good money after bad.

Considering the team had drawn 1-1 with Celtic at Parkhead in a game in which they were the better side over the course of the 90 minutes the day before he took charge of his first training session it was another poor call.

There were certainly a few who were out of their depth. But individual players, and the team as a whole, regressed during the final weeks of the 2016/17 campaign. Barrie McKay, for one, went rapidly backwards. The warning signs were there for all to see. Nevertheless, in came Bruno Alves, Daniel Candeias, Dalcio, Graham Dorrans, Eduardo Herrera, Ryan Jack, Alfredo Morelos and Carlos Pena.

The Europa League exit to Progres Niederkorn, the fifth-placed team in Luxembourg, a part-time outfit who had never won a European tie, was an early indication the recruitment drive had not been wise.

Rangers may well have taken the right decision by dispensing with Caixinha after seven months on Thursday. But the situation that whoever is brought in will inherit will seriously impede efforts to secure silverware going forward.

There is certainly enough talent to clinch second place in the Ladbrokes Premiership. Aberdeen, soundly beaten at Pittodrie by Celtic on Wednesday evening, can be pipped to the runners-up spot this season if an experienced replacement who is familiar with the game in this country is brought in. But as for challenging for the title any time soon? Forget about it.

There will not, despite the steadily improving financial situation at Ibrox, be a “bumper transfer war chest” for him to lavish on new men. Players will have to go out before replacements can be brought in. That will not be easy. Indeed, it may be nigh on impossible.

Alves, Herrera and Pena are among the highest earners in Scottish football. Have any of them justified their wages to date? Are any of them likely to do so in future? Will it be possible to offload them either on loan or permanently if they fail to? There are many imponderables.

Derek McInnes, who is many bookmakers’ favourite to take over, thought better of joining Sunderland in the close season after looking at the players he would have to work with and the backing he would receive to rebuild. What will he make of the situation at Rangers if they come calling? Is it really any better?

The man in the dugout at Rangers will always, even in their current diminished state after years of off-field unrest, be judged by how his team fares in comparison with Celtic.

It is hard not to come to the conclusion that Rangers have gift-wrapped 10-in-a-row for Celtic by appointing Pedro Caixinha as their manager and then handing him in excess of £8 million to sign new players.